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What is a resilient livelihood anyway?

The current job market is not particularly enticing for young, enthusiastic, inexperienced and transition-minded individuals. Young people across the country are struggling to get any kind of job, let alone a meaningful one, and once you do get a job there are no guarantees you are going to get to keep it. Having qualifications no longer guarantees you work, indeed you are often expected to put in vast quantities (sometimes several years) of unwaged volunteering to gain experience before any one will consider employing you. This is not only highly demoralising for young enthusiastic people, it is tantamount to slave labour in some cases and it is a ridiculous situation for society as a whole when so many of its young, capable, hard-working members are sitting around with nothing to do. This situation is clearly not very sustainable.

This coming Friday, for a day before the 2012 Transition Conference there is going to be a Youth Symposium looking at the topic of creating meaningful livelihoods for young people. It is going to be an exploration by young people into the barriers, opportunities and ways forward for young people to find resilient livelihoods. There will be a few elders there to hold the space and to offer the wisdom of experience. Rob Hopkins and Mark Boyle (the moneyless man) are just a couple of the elders who are going to be there. But the main focus is letting us explore the situation and work things out ourselves.

So what is a resilient livelihood anyway?

I think there are two aspects to a resilient livelihood. One is being beneficial and sustainable for the individual and the other is a livelihood that is good for the earth. These two aspects have slightly different requirements.


Me at an Energy Advice ClinicSo what does an individual need for a resilient livelihood? One word in particular springs to mind - nurturing. Not a word that can be applied to most peoples livelihoods at the moment! This encompasses feeling that you are achieving worthwhile things with your life and that your efforts are appreciated; being part of a community and positively contributing to it; having the flexibility to allow you to live your life as you need to and having the variety to keep you engaged and to exercise all of your abilities. I am sure there are other things that could be added too.

Personally I have tried working in 'Transition' and I found that it often involves project management, it feels quite top down, it is quite office based and you end up doing all the hard bits so others can enjoy the fun stuff! I have written about it a bit before here and here. I am sure there are other ways of working in transition that are different, but I've decided it is probably not for me. I want to be part of the sustainable new society not just a catalyst that gets us there and then is useless! 

So another option is to learn a trade and to be part of a thriving local economy, which trade to learn is another matter! Another possibility is working in sustainability education, with organisations such as Forest Schools and the Otesha Project. Also making your livelihood from living on the land in a sustainable manner could in some circumstances fulfill the requirements for me. Everyone is going to have a slightly different list and I would be interested to hear what other people would put on theirs.

The Planet

I think that this needs to not only be a livelihood that doesn't cause environmental destruction, but one that also moves us towards the resilient society that we are trying to manifest. So I suppose this encompasses working in the environmental and sustainability movement, working in an 'industry' that produces goods locally and sustainably, working in renewable energy, working on the land and working in sustianabililty education. As well as others I haven't thought of.

Thankfully there is a fair amount of cross over between the two different aspects!

Jack who was involved in Otesha's Gear Up programmeThere are some inspiring projects going on at the moment to help create resilient, meaningful livelihoods for young people. The Otesha Projects Green Jobs Programme is helping young people into 'green jobs' and is campaigning for the creation of more. At the other end of the scale Sustaining Dunbar have three local young people working as apprentices in their community bakery

So there will be a lot to talk about on Friday! And I am looking forward to some really interesting ideas emerging. The Transition Network will also be launching their 'One Year in Transition' programme, which aims to provide all of the training and experience for young people to become leaders towards a resilient society in whichever manner they choose. It is also expected that the Youth symposium will result in a network of young people who want to stay in touch and share experiences, ideas and their journeys around this subject.

 Whatever the outcome I have no doubt that this is going to be a really interesting day and I look forward to reporting back  on what occured on the Friday after the conference. So stay tuned folks. 


Photos: Me giving out Home Energy Advice (Emily Speck) and one of the guys who was involved with Otesha's Gear Up Programme learning to be a bike mechanic (


Ann Owen's picture


I'm looking forward to what comes back from the Youth Symposium and hope the call for more apprenticeship schemes will be part of it. By now I have a lot of knowledge and skills to share with people re market gardening, but no money to pay any "employees", but I'd love to teach someone in return for some help.

Mark Watson's picture

Nice post, Kerry

"I want to be part of the sustainable new society not just a catalyst that gets us there and then is useless!"

Too right Kerry, and implicit here is a whole shift in values where no one need feel useless whatever their age.